GARDINER — The town manager of Bethel is the second of two finalists being considered for the city manager position in Gardiner.

Christine Landes, who has worked as town manager in the Oxford County town for nearly four years, started her career in municipal government with a 12-year stint of serving as town clerk in her hometown, Warren, and more recently served as the deputy city clerk in Brewer.

Landes met with Gardiner department heads and elected officials Monday in Gardiner before giving a brief presentation to about 30 city residents, business people and city staff members in the Hazzard Room at Gardiner Public Library.

“I was attracted to apply for the position (because) growing up an hour from here, I remember traveling through Gardiner and thinking what charm the city had,” she said. “My brother and his family own property in Gardiner, so you can see we both fell in love with it early in our childhood.”

She listed several accomplishments during her time in Bethel, including starting a capital improvement reserve fund to create a mechanism to save money over time so that the effect on the taxpayer of taking on expensive capital projects is lessened. She also has updated a number of town policies, including implementing background and license checks on new employees, and a computer and internet use policy.

“I crafted a payback plan to work with taxpayers that are unable to pay property taxes (on properties) that have gone to foreclosure,” she said. That allows the residents to remain in their homes and allows the town to collect the taxes owed.

Bethel has a population of about 2,700, about half the size of Gardiner’s population. The town’s proposed spending plan for the next fiscal year is about $4.2 million. Town officials are planning to pay for about two-thirds of that through property taxes. Other sources of revenue include excise tax, revenue sharing and local road assistance funds.

Her current projects include a wastewater treatment plant upgrade, a tree-cutting project at Bethel’s airport, a renovation of the Town Office and a sewer use inventory plan to re-evaluate the rates users pay.

She said she believes in bringing value to taxpayers.

As she sees it, Gardiner shares many of the problems that all communities face — lack of affordable housing, an aging workforce of municipal workers and balancing growth and development with preserving the city’s character.

Residents wanted to know how Landes interacts with others, her thoughts on regionalizing services and whether she views the job city manager to be that of a visionary or a facilitator.

“As city manager, it’s my job to bring recommendations and new ideas and bring that vision and hopes to the City Council and ask, ‘Do we want to do this?'” she said, “It’s the city manager’s job to be on the lookout for new ideas.”

Gardiner resident Louis Sigel asked Landes about ideas she might have for economic development.

City officials are continuing their deliberations about what option they might pursue later this year when Gardiner’s economic development coordinator leaves that position.

Patrick Wright, executive director of Gardiner Main Street, has been serving in that role under a city contract with Gardiner Main Street. But with his resignation effective at the end of this month, he’s giving up both posts.

The city’s proposed budget includes funding for a full-time economic development director, but that might change as elected officials start to debate the budget this week. Several city councilors have said they want to wait until a city manager is hired to see what skills that person would bring to the job before making a decision.

In her presentation, Landes said the role of a city manager is to make sure the infrastructure required for economic is in place as well as the regulatory structure; and that if she is hired, she would bring a renewed focus to economic development.

To further that, she said, it’s critical for the city to have relationships with agencies such as the Kennebec Valley Council of Governments, the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce and Gardiner Main Street.

In answering Sigel’s question, she said it’s probably best not to have a plan to have a specific business — Walmart, for example — in town.

“I think those things just occur naturally. I don’t think you can say, ‘I want a Walmart.’ Things are going to happen the way they happen,” she said.

Before working in municipal government, she worked as a branch manager of Waldoboro Bank in Rockland.

Landes has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Maine at Augusta, and just last week she completed a graduate degree from Southern New Hampshire University in business with a concentration in public administration.

Landes serves on the executive committee of the Maine Municipal Association, where she is the chairwoman of the strategic and finance committee. She’s a member of the International City Managers Association; and the Maine Town, City and County Managers Association. She is the second vice president for the Maine Welfare Directors Association.

Landes is married and has three children and three grandchildren.

Those attending the session were asked to fill out evaluations and turn them in, as they were for the other finalist, Michael Bobinsky.

Mayor Thom Harnett said the City Council will consider that feedback as well as feedback from city department heads before providing direction to David Barrett, whom the city has hired to facilitate the search.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ